Dashing down the bridal path.

Author:Nelson, Luann
Position:Bonnie McElveen-Hunter's "Elegant Bride" magazine
 
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It was a whirlwind courtship,. The unexpected encounter. The brief acquaintance. Then Bonnie McElveen-Hunter walked down the aisle with a new magazine: Southern Bride.

This marriage of romance and commerce looks to have been made in publishing heaven. "We've had nothing but rave reviews. The magazine has really worked for us," says Betty Feagans, New Jersey-based marketing and communications vice president of Royal China & Porcelain Cos. Ads for its Royal Worcester and Spode china have run in the magazine - now caned Elegant Bride - for two years, and Feagans says inquiries have "numbered in the thousands."

It apparently works for readers, too. 1990 surveys showed that Elegant Bride readers spent an average of three hours with the magazine - at 274 pages, that's 39 seconds a page. The much larger Modern Bride held readers' attention for 15 seconds a page, and Bride's, for nine seconds. (It's not uncommon for them to have issues of 1,000-plus pages.)

In addition to lavish photo features on bridal gowns, Elegant Bride discusses everything from bridesmaids' dresses - not an easy choice since, as McElveen-Hunter says, figure types range "from Twiggy to Omar the tent maker" - to how much to pay the preacher. There are color features on weddings and pages of black-and-white photos of newlywed readers, quite frankly one of the most popular areas of the magazine," Associate Publisher Ed Calfo, 45, says.

Known for almost three years as Southern Bride, the magazine was renamed Elegant Bride in fall 1990, bolstering a move to national circulation. It's not turning a profit, but it's flouting the long-established New York matrons: While circulation of Conde Nast's Bride's and Cahners Publishing's Modern Bride has slipped - Bride's fell 24 percent from June 1989 to june 1990, and Modern Bride dropped 14 percent in the same period - Elegant Bride's newsstand sales rose 43 percent.

Of course, Elegant Bride has a lot of growing to do: Its ad rates and circulation are about half those of its bigger competitors. The one-time rate for a four-color page averages about $10,045, with the highest rate - $13,951 - for china and crystal ads and the lowest - $7,404 - for travel ads. (Few advertisers pay these rates, since 95 percent receive frequency discounts, Calfo says.)

In 1987, Greensboro-based Pace Communications was looking to diversify. USAir's buyout of Piedmont Airlines wouldn't be complete for two years, giving the company until December 1988 to publish its Pace inflight magazine, and it had a contract to do a magazine for USAir starting in January 88.

Pace President McElveen-Hunter was considering publishing a Sunday newspaper supplement when she met Fred Thompson. Retired as president of The New York Times Co.'s magazine division, he was then a printing consultant. They nixed...

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